The Norman Warren Collection DVD Review

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by Simon Crust Mar 1, 2005 at 12:00 AM

    The Norman Warren Collection DVD Review
    SRP: £29.99


    Satan's Slave

    Presented with a 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen print preserving the original techniscope aspect ratio with an average bit rate between 4-6 Mbps. Unfortunately, the print used is sourced from several different original films and edited together (by Warren) to from this one true director's cut. However, because of the different sources, and different states of repair of the various film stock used the print is rather poor quality. When it is good the colours are bright and vibrant, cool with deep blacks. When bad, the colour washes out, becoming far too blue and at its worst almost totally blue. Thankfully such occurrences are extremely rare. There is fair print damage with scratches and the odd blemish and most suffer with film grain. Thankfully though there are no digital compression problems. Now all this does sound bad, but actually you get used to it and in the end it doesn't seem to matter, the wash seems to fit the down beat nature of the film.

    TerrorPresented at 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, with an average bit rate between 4-6 Mbps, Terror looks really quite good for its age. Colours are bright and true - good thing considering the unusual palate used here, and black levels are deep. Unfortunately the print does suffer from original print damage, there are plenty of scratches and dirt marks prevalent, but this can be forgiven. There are no digital compression problems whatsoever, even the rain, smoke and abrupt colours shine through with clarity - first rate.


    Presented here as full screen (1.33:1) original aspect ratio, there is obviously no anamorphic enhancement. The print is clear, detailed and well presented. Colours are a little thin, but not washed out, and blacks are reassuringly good. There were a few instances or original film damage, a few specks and dots, the odd flutter and a little film grain but nothing too distracting. There were no digital artefacts seen - apart from the 'thin' picture that comes with all non-anamorphic prints this is a really good print, and considering age and speed of production is a wonderful representation.


    Oh, dear. What we should have is a clear, grain free, brightly lit image contrasting dark moody corners, rich in colour and high in detail. Unfortunately, the print Anchor Bay has used is the complete opposite of that needed. Starting with the good; it is framed correctly at 2.35:1, anamorphically enhanced for widescreen T.V.s and has an average bit rate of 4-6 Mbps. But it is a soft, drab affair with washed out colours and grey blacks. The veneer of film grain adds to the ensemble serving to mask any detail not already lost. Add to that various spots of print damage and the whole thing suffers from looking like an old VHS tape that has been cleaned up. And bizarrely this just maybe the case... in 1993 Vipco released Inseminoid on video mastered from old VHS. As late as 1997 producer Gordon was still actively searching for original masters; assuming he was unsuccessful then mastering and cleaning up a VHS copy would account for the quality presented here. It is such a shame as a pristine print would lift Inseminoid so much.
    The Norman Warren Collection Picture


    Satan's Slave

    Three English Tracks, 2.0 stereo, 5.1 Dolby digital surround and DTS surround. The stereo track is the best of the bunch providing as it does all the relevant ambiance and dialogue comes across clearly and precisely. Both the Dolby and DTS tracks are mono signals pumped into the five speakers and tweaked to appear as if there is front and rear separation. Fully during the score, maybe, but awful during dialogue. Don't bother.


    Three English tracks, 2.0 stereo, 5.1 Dolby digital surround and DTS surround. Both surround tracks had some separation between front and rear speakers during the thunder and score, and didn't sound too bad. However, when it came to dialogue the speech was smeared over the front three speakers sounding tinny and awful, and an indication of how the separation was achieved. The DTS offering did sound slightly better having more bass, but the stereo track sounds the best overall, with all ambiance and noise sounding clear and precise.


    Three English tracks, 2.0 stereo, 5.1 Dolby digital surround and DTS surround. I did detect the tiniest bit of separation between front and back speakers with both surround tracks, but only when the score was played, other than that the rears were not used and the rest of the audio was smeared across the front three speakers. Both Dolby and DTS formats sounded equally bad - the 2.0 stereo track is more than adequate for the film presented and by far suits it the most. Everything is very audible, score, effects and ambiance. Even when the screams really let loose (very loud at times) there is no distortion and everything is kept nice and minimalist. Stick with this one.


    Three English tracks, 2.0 stereo, 5.1 Dolby digital surround and DTS surround. Both the surround tracks though are not worth the bit rate given them, and sound like a mono signal pumped into 6 speakers. Yes the music does sound much fuller (the only separation I could detect) but dialogue is spread over the front three speakers and sounds tinny and awful, other effects are just as bad. The stereo track is all you need anyway, containing everything within a nutshell. Score, dialogue, effects all are handled nicely and service the film well.
    The Norman Warren Collection Sound


    Satan's Slave

    An excellent audio commentary is provided by director Warren and writer David McGillivray. There is a genuine rapport between these two friends and they talk fondly and frankly about the project. Warren is a font of knowledge about the technical aspects and achievements made with so little money while McGillivray is content to sit back and offer information with a dry wit that is just superb.

    Two deleted scenes are included; however they are without sound and in black and white. Warren does though voice over the reason for there excise and why they are presented as they are.

    Devilish music is a 13 minute interview with John Scott about the music he created for the film. He talks about his relationship with Warren , how they met, their first work together, before going on to explain about the music. He used nothing but acoustic instruments and there were only seven players in the 'orchestra' yet the score they produced was one of excellence. This is a terrific little piece spoilt only by the poor sound, the piano that Scott sits are comes though loud and clear, yet his voice is rather difficult to hear.

    All you need is blood is an original 'making of' documentary made, incidentally, by the BBC during production of Satan's Slave about the state of the British film industry. The story goes that the programme was never used, except the beginning part depicting the 'satanic ritual' in a separate documentary about the rising art of devil worship! As a making of it is quite good with interviews with cast and crew and plenty of behind the scenes filming. The quality is poor, but it is a fascinating view. Also included is the original trailer.


    Director Warren is joined by writer David McGillivray for the audio commentary on this disc. Both are obvious friends and discuss much about the film. There are one or two pauses, but the conversation never really lets up. Warren is a font of information about the film, while McGillivray is happy to sit back and discuss whatever. The whole thing comes off as two mates talking over a pint, such was the nature of their manner. An enjoyable if slightly light hearted affair, remembered fondly by both.

    There is a 20 second radio spot and a French trailer for the film. Also included are two deleted scenes both introduced by Warren explaining there excise due to timing reasons. Neither add anything to the finished film and it is easy to see why they where excised.


    An audio commentary with director Warren and Jonathon Rigby author of English Gothic is the main extra on this disc. It seems quite a scripted affair, with Rigby calling on numerous facts and stats from the press releases and film society press when the film was originally released. Much is discussed and there is a lot of information, but Warren is rather lead by Rigby and though the two talk well together, a bit more memory from the director rather than stale facts would have been better. Also includes the trailer for the film.


    An audio commentary with director Warren and first assistant (and friend) Gary White discuss much about the film, its cast, filming conditions, budget, design and any number of other aspects about the main feature. The information is given with Warren's characteristic easy listing chat, and you can't help listening to him and just sitting back and enjoying him talking. There are, unfortunately, a few gaps where the pair just sit back and watch the film, both are obviously very proud of it and talk with gusto when the conversation gets back on track, which is never too long away.

    Electronic Approach is featurette about the music created for the film by John Scott which runs for about 13 minutes, though Scott is on camera for barely half that time. For the brief minutes we spend with him Scott tells us his thoughts and inspirations, reasons and aspirations for the score, a nice if fully padded piece.

    Interview with Judy Geeson is a much better affair with the full 11 minute run time dedicated to the actress. It was filmed in her home in LA and she talks candidly (to an unseen interviewer) about her career in films, with perhaps a little more detail on Inseminoid considering that's what the extra is for. She is easy to listen too and very agreeable and has nothing but fond memories for the shoot and of Warren the director. The Trailer for the film is also here .Extras Disc

    An autobiography of Norman J Warren is just that, a half hour piece with Warren talking about his life. This is quite a unique film, far better than the filmography/biography text that accompanies so many discs nowadays. Warren takes us through his life, and tells us all about how he loved films from an early age and all he wanted to do was make films. He has had long and varied career in the film industry, making many friends along the way. Though it is a bit shallow in places (he never talks about his strained relationship with Bachoo Sen about the lack of money he was paid for his first feature Her Private Hell) this is Warren talking about Warren, and he is wonderful to listen too.

    Creating Satan is the making of documentary of Satan's Slave newly produced by Warren for Anchor Bay. This is a 30 minute production and is quite excellent. Reuniting cast and crew to talk about memories of the film, all have something interesting to say; and all have fond memories of the project. Much information is given, and Warren even visits the location for the film. The story, design and effects are all discussed, the only problem that this was not long enough; it is certainly the best one of these docu's on this extras disc.

    Bloody Good Fun is the making of terror documentary commission by Anchor Bay and produced by Warren. Once again Anchor Bay manages to reunite some of the key players to discuss their memories of making the film. This piece runs for 40 minutes and does delve quite in-depth; some might argue to much as a lot of running time is devoted to very minor characters. Design and special effects work are also discussed. All the actors interviewed had nothing but praise for Warren and all recount the fun time they had making this film. I did find the quality of some of the interviews a bit low, obviously shot on video, the lighting is sometimes poor and the sound is sometimes a bit too low; however this does not detract from another fine original piece from Anchor Bay.

    Keep on Running is a making of documentary newly produced by Warren for Anchor Bay. Managing to reunite many of the original producers, actors and designers, all talk about the rushed nature of the project, the speed of production, lack of money, but above all fun they had in producing a film when there was nothing happening in the British film industry at that time. All have fond memories, and nothing but high praise for Warren for keeping everything on track and delivering the film on time. Another fine piece from Anchor Bay, it runs for about half hour.

    Subterranean Universe is a newly made, Warren produced piece for Anchor Bay, about the making of Inseminoid. This is a highly polished effort that manages to reunite many of the original cast and crew and get their thoughts about the film. Starting from the films conception through to financing (the Shaw Brothers co financed!) past production and beyond, this 45 minute documentary charts the full progress of the film. Without exception all look back with a fondness for the project, putting up with the long dark damp caves of Chislehurst and sets that were produced from it. The preview screening for Fox was also covered, with then graciously agreeing there was no similarity between this and Alien and even wishing them luck with their film! This is well worth a watch, and like may AB produced documentaries is worthy of their name.

    Cast and Crew biographies is the standard text biographies of all the major 'stars' of Warren's films. They are however quite in depth and worth a read if you are interested in knowing a little more about the principle actors.

    Photo galleries open to a page with the four titles of the films in the set. Open each film to find a wealth of still images, behind scene shots, video covers, posters etc. Lastly included on this disc is Fragment Warrens first film, and the one that launched his career in the film industry. It is a weird little thing, 10 minutes running and telling the short story of a brief fling of a young girl and her coming to terms with the subsequent consequences. Shot in black and white, 35 mm and silent, but with an original score by John Scott, it is very interesting, and showcases some real talent in the making.
    The Norman Warren Collection Extras


    Warren's directing career may not have been that prolific; with only 9 films to his name the majority of which are horror, his output could be considered short. However, his ability to improvise and work a script with very little money, to produce a workable product is undeniable. One thing comes across in all the documentaries - Warren ran a fun ship. All the people that have worked with him have nothing but nice things to say. One wonders what horror this man could have produced had he been given the budgets and scripts...

    As a DVD set, Anchor Bay have produced a real winner, right down to the coffin shaped packaging. Warren's best known films are here wonderfully presented. With all these unique and newly made extras to boot, I cannot think of anything more one could wish for in this set. This is a first class effort form Anchor Bay and it deserves to do well.
    Suggested retail price when reviewed: £29.99

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